Chris Delaney, 45, has accomplished much in his life including raising $250,000 for eye research, a bodybuilding career that had him win the Ontario championships as well as placing fourth in North America, and being named one of the ‘100 Canadians to Watch For’ in Maclean’s magazine.
Delaney spent his childhood as a competitive athlete. But when he was 22, he began to experience vision loss and was declared legally blind within a year.
“Losing my vision at 22 robbed me of my opportunity to play professional football, to continue my firefighting career and took away my independence with respect to my licence,” he said. “I was always an over-reactive, very visual person so this hit me hard like a ton of bricks.”
After his diagnosis, Delaney wanted to do something to promote blindness awareness and raise funds for eye research. He was introduced to cycling by a friend and saw this as an opportunity to accomplish what he wanted by using his athletic abilities.
“Runners train months and months to run a marathon so I asked cyclists what their toughest challenge was and they said a ‘century,’ which is 100 miles,” he said. “So because people thought I was unable to do this, not only was I going to prove them wrong but I was going to do it by cycling 100 miles a day, every day for three months.”
Delaney reached his goal and raised a quarter of a million dollars for eye research. But he did not stop there.
He spent over 10 years as a fundraising executive in the not-for-profit sector raising funds for challenged children and the homeless as well as for school-building projects in Africa with Free the Children. He also began speaking in schools about his experiences and how he overcame his challenges.
After taking a few years away from public speaking to pursue a business venture within the grocery industry, Delaney is going to begin speaking in schools again.
“I am now returning to what I love to do the most and that is helping others, especially today’s youth,” he said. “By sharing my story of trials and tribulations, highs and lows and overcoming all that life will throw at you.”
To extend his reach, he will be implementing a number of webinars on Facebook, which have already started, as well as through his YouTube channel.
“The greatest message that can come out of all of this is that you can do anything you want to as long as you’re willing to work hard and be focused,” Delaney said. “You have to have the heart to be able to accomplish big tasks in this lifetime and as long as you have heart, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Delaney invites anyone who wishes to follow him to reach out through Facebook or his YouTube channel.
He has also created his own brand, FREAK, which started as an idea he had that an animator friend drew up and brought to life. The character was put on shirts and eventually expanded to many different characters to embody who Delaney is – a football freak, a cycling freak, a gym freak, etc.
To learn more about his journey and his brand, visit www.gettingmyfreakon.com.